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Trump Lawyers Argue Mueller Has Not Met Threshold For Presidential Interview; Source: Trump Firing Mueller Still "A Possibility"; Report: Russian Intel Official Under Sanctions Entered U.S.; CIA Director Pompeo Met Top Russian Spies; Trump Speech Excerpt: I'm Extending Open Hand to Both Parties; Sources: Trump Expected to Reverse Obama Order on Gitmo. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks for watching ANDERSON, and I will be back 8:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour from now. Right now, CNN special coverage of President Trump's first State of the Union Address, continues with Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT".

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett, and welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT live from Washington, D.C. The breaking news just hours before the president of the United States gives his first State of the Union Address. A major development in the Russia investigation. We're learning significant new details about the negotiations between President Trump's attorneys and Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team.

Pamela Brown is just breaking the story. And Pamela, what are you hearing from your sources at this hour?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation between Robert Mueller's team, the president's legal team, my colleague Gloria Borger and I are told that the president's lawyers are making the case that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has not met the high threshold they believe is needed to interview the president in person.

This in response to the request from Special Counsel to interview the president in person as we have previously reported, Special Counsel Mueller has made it clear that's what they want, but the president's lawyers are making the case not so fast. They believe that they have not shown that they have not met the threshold showing that the president is the only way they can get the information they need in this obstruction of justice case, which really boils down to whether there was corrupt intent in firing former FBI director James Comey, what the president's state of mind is.

The president's lawyers, Erin, also believe that the -- interviewing the president isn't just like interviewing anyone else. And I can tell you that there has been ongoing consultation about this between the president's legal team and White House Counsel as well as outside legal experts given the implications of any decision on the presidential testimony could have on the office of the presidency, Erin. BURNETT: Well, coming out, Pamela, they're saying, all right, you

haven't met this threshold, at least the way they define the threshold. Obviously, it's an aggressive strategy, right? They're pushing back. You know, will it work? Or do they still anticipate that the president will appear before Mueller in person for that interview?

BROWN: Will it work is still an open question. But oftentimes in negotiations like this, both sides start at opposite end of the spectrum and then usually they end up somewhere in the middle. One source described the ongoing negotiations between the president's legal team and Robert Mueller's team as professional, as ongoing. And the president himself, as you'll recall, Erin, just last week said he would love to sit down with Robert Mueller under oath. Then the next day, his attorney, John Dowd, came out and said that he hasn't made any decision on the matter. He, as in himself, his lawyer, John Dowd. And of course, this could all end up in a court battle, Erin.

I mean, you know, you have a situation where the president's lawyers may stand firm and say, look, we don't believe that you've met this threshold, we don't want you interviewing our client, the president of the United States. But Robert Mueller seemed to come back and issue a subpoena to force the issue and this could end up in court. So -- but this is still very early on in the process. And process is really key here because that's oftentimes how this plays out. You start somewhere and then you end up somewhere else at the end of it. Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Pamela. Obviously, significant, though, sort of what the president's strategy, right, likes to say one thing and then get credit for it and then maybe that wasn't the intent all along. We'll see as the negotiations go on.

This news, though, comes as a source close to the White House says, and get ready for this, it's still possible Trump could fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The source telling CNN I want to quote it, "Anybody who knows Trump best knows that's a possibility. This guy is a street fighter. And he thinks this Mueller investigation is Bs."

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT at the White House. And Jeff, what do you know? I mean, obviously, those who were dismissing this idea of Trump firing Bob Mueller, were dismissing it with Wallet (ph) six months ago and he didn't do it, so why do we care now? This is putting it back on the table right now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it never has left the table at least in the president's mind. Yes, it could be a possibility. That does not mean it's going to be a reality. There are many political impediments and red lines that Republicans on Capitol Hill say that that would simply be, you know, too much to bear here, that the president, if he fired Bob Mueller, it would not put this investigation aside as the White House wants it to do. It would simply deepen it.

And there's also questions of, does he have the authority to. His lawyer, Jay Sekulow, says he does have the constitutional authority to do so. Others say not so fast. The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, of course, appointed the Special Counsel so he would have to get rid of him. So, would the president get rid of Rod Rosenstein?

Now, also possible he has been in the president's crosshairs. But all of this, of course, is coming as this remains a focus here, a distraction here at the White House. I am told that the Russian investigation, this probe that has so angered the president, he calls it a hoax, a witch hunt, he will not bring that up this evening I am told. But of course, he has a decision to make here on that memo, that memo that we've been talking about for several days now. Will he release that?

[19:05:06] I am told he is likely to in the coming days. He has not yet seen it, but come tomorrow, Erin, I'm sure he'll have a look at it. Erin.

BURNETT: Oh, certainly obviously is. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny, we know is sitting in a room at the White House and at least sources tell us at this point the president himself has not actually viewed it, but it's there. OUTFRONT now, David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents, Nixon and Clinton among them. Abby Phillip, our White House correspondent, Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and presidential historian, Jen Psaki, former Obama White House Communications director. Steve Cortes, head of President Trump's Hispanic Council during the campaign and Carrie Cordero, former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security.

All right. Thanks very much to all of you. Tim, so Trump's lawyers are positioning here. They're putting this out.


BURNETT: They're leaking this out, that they think Mueller has not made the case, that he has the right to interview the president of the United States directly. How significant is this that they're now putting that out there?

NAFTALI: Well, the first thing is who is surprised? Given when the president said that he was ready to actually testify under oath in front of the Mueller investigation, he then said if my lawyers agree. So, the president opened up an escape hatch for himself from the start.


NAFTALI: But I have no idea. I'd have to ask the lawyer. But I have no idea what is this threshold. If the investigation believes that it's materially important that they speak with the president --

STEVE CORTES, TRUMP CAMPAIGN'S HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: Tim, the threshold is that otherwise, if we could get executive privilege and lots of precedent in the U.S. law that prosecutors cannot just subpoena the president, they cannot compel him to testify in front of them. Otherwise we're going to have prosecutors all across America with partisan aims, trying to divert the president of the United States and take up his team. So there's real legal precedent here. The only way you can get the president to testify, even compel him, is

if there's no other way to get the information and there's a serious crime committed. Neither of those is the case here. So, he should not even be asked to testify, number one. Mueller is wrong on the law. Number two, Trump should not comply. He does not have to testify. Mueller works for him by the way. It is his Justice Department. It is. It is not an independent agency. It's part of the executive branch, the American people elected the president.

BURNETT: Much too independent for his liking as he makes clear --


BURNETT: -- (INAUDIBLE). Carrie, but here's the thing. You make the point you make here, but yet, there's no clear precedent for a president to avoid taking questions.

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, there's not. So first of all, right now, the Special Counsel's office has not subpoenaed the president. They're not asking him to appear before the grand jury. What they're -- what the reporting is that they are negotiating with the White House Counsel's office and with the president's lawyers is for him to be interviewed.

Many other White House officials, campaign officials have all been interviewed out of respect for and recognition that this is the president they're going to interview. They have engaged in a lengthy negotiation. What it sounds like to me is that the president's lawyers are now trying to -- they're encouraging their public messaging, trying to get out arguments that they're trying to make. And it's the right thing as lawyers for them to make whatever arguments they can. It certainly is -- their client is somebody who they should be concerned about going in front of an interview given his --

BURNETT: I mean, because there is a question, if it's about Russian collusion, and there is nothing to hide, Jen, we spent again and again, there's absolutely nothing to hide, even if he is as he can be, you know, loquacious or goes on a tangent, if he has nothing to hide, he has nothing to hide. Why should they fight it?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: That's true. But I also think Carrie's point about the public messaging is pretty pivotal here. Because what they are trying to do is lay the ground work and give a blueprint for their supporters moving forward as to why this investigation isn't legitimate. If he fires Mueller, there's justification for that. This is all a witch hunt. So this is all an effort to create that sort of aura through the public messaging piece.

BURNETT: As a public messaging piece, I mean, they have come out and said they put out, what, tens of thousands of documents, anyone you wanted to talk to, you've got to talk to. That's been the message they put out. Does saying, no, no, no, we're going to hold back the guy at the core of this hurt that message of full transparency and cooperation, at least they've been trying to push?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that they are doing something that they believe is in the best interest of their client to Carrie's point. I mean, this is -- we have to remember this is a person, a president who has a history of testifying in situations like this, and getting caught in perjury traps in some of the lawsuits that he's been involved in in the past.

So, a smart lawyer would try to keep him out of that situation. That's why you've heard on television for the last two weeks ad nauseam, every Trump surrogate, every person who thinks they have Trump's ear (ph) saying, do not testify. Chris Christie said so just this morning, he thinks it's a bad idea because Christie is also a lawyer, by the way. I think this is a -- the president's attorneys are genuinely concerned about setting their client up --


PHILLIP: -- of something that could be detrimental to him. But they also don't want to antagonize Mueller which is why we've heard them talk very much about those (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: What they, David, go for the grand jury subpoena? I guess that that's a sort of a nuclear option, right?

[19:10:05] They have that, and one would presume that they would be able to get that (INAUDIBLE).

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: Well, that's the club in the closet and they can bring that out. I think they're far better off to negotiate upfront. I don't think it's a surprise at all that the president's lawyers are negotiating with the Mueller tear team about what the -- about what the -- are there going to be circumference around, are there going to be guard rails around here.

You know, the president said all along, if they go into my tax returns, basically, that's a red line for me and I'm pulling out. That's a big fight we have down the road.

What I think is surprising is this notion of some sort of threshold that no private citizen I've ever heard of, who's been called before a grand jury or called to testify voluntarily, has sort of set the ground rules, you haven't met the threshold of the investigation. The whole purpose of the investigation is to figure out what the heck -- hold on a second. Hold on one second.

CORTES: That's not fair.

GERGEN: What is not fair is to treat the president who's above the law and to treat him unlike a private citizen. And that is what is at issue here. You tell me -- you show me a history of private citizens who've been able to tell a special prosecutor, go to hell, I'm not talking to you. So if you didn't want --

CORTES: I'm going to show you history of private citizens, but I will show you is your president. The president of United States, this president, by the way --

NAFTALI: Litigated this --


NAFTALI: We've already litigated it.

GERGEN: Yes, we have.

CORTES: He's been busy defeating ISIS and growing our economy to answer to every petty grievance of --

GERGEN: Guys, that was the next illusion --

BURNETT: Bill Clinton has to testify in both a civilian and a criminal case, right? The president is there for presidents to testify.

CORDERO: And there is a precedent for presidents, prior presidents to be interviewed also by investigators, by prosecutors. So, there is precedent for both. It sounds, based on the reporting, like the Special Counsel's office and the lawyers for the president are negotiating this arrangement in a way that is respectful of the office but also acknowledges that there is a serious investigation going on.

PSAKI: And let's take a step back and look at the major issue here, which is whether the president of the United States worked with the foreign power to rig our elections and then whether he covered it up later on through several steps. Yes, there's not an entirely a precedent for that. I guess Nixon is the best comparison. But, of course, he should be looked at as a private citizen.

CORTES: But Jen, look, the answer to both of those questions is no and no. There was no collusion. And after a year and a half of investigating, there was no collusion.

PSAKI: We don't know that.

CORTES: And as much -- here's the thing. You know, here we are with his first State of the Union tonight, right? And by the way, the State of the Union is fantastic, the economy is thriving, ISIS is defeated, optimism reigns in the lands, small business optimism --


CORTES: -- all-time highs. OK, back to the State of the Union. Yet what do his opponents want to focus on, they want to somehow relitigate 2016 because they still --

BURNETT: There has been no conclusion in this investigation.

CORTES: And they --

BURNETT: There has been no conclusion.

GERGEN: His lawyers leaked the story. CORTES: And they believe --

BURNETT: Yes, of course they did.


CORTES: It was cops and factory workers in the Midwest, those are the people who elected President Trump.

BURNETT: Carrie, before we go, one question to you though about the scope, because this is actually could be very important. You know, as Jen points out, about collusion, possibly the foreign power. It also could be about money laundering. And that's where the president's red line has been. The reason it could be about money laundering, we know that the special prosecutors brought in a lot of people who have just that expertise on his team?

Would that be on the table?

CORDERO: It might be something that they are interviewing. What we don't know publicly about the approach that Mueller's investigation is taking is whether they plan this interview to touch on all subjects that might be subject of their investigation, which could potentially include money laundering. Or, whether they're going to just focus on the interview with the president, a money case could be made by documents, perhaps that's an area where they don't need to interview him on, just hypothetically. Again, we don't know if that's part of it or not.

And so there might be aspects of the investigation that they need his specific input on and there might be aspects that they don't.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all, all staying with us. As our conversation continues on this special edition of OUTFRONT, more breaking news. The head of the Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, who is sanctioned by the U.S. government, was reportedly allowed to enter the country, this country, United States of America just last week. How did that happen?

Plus, we're learning new details about what the president will and will not say tonight in his first State of the Union. And what may be a record number of lawmakers boycotting tonight's speech and trump himself. One of those sitting it out is our guest. Is this really the right way to protest the president?


[19:18:11] BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We're live in Washington. President Trump's first State of the Union speech coming up over the next hour. And Trump coming under fire on multiple fronts when it comes to Russia tonight. First, for failing to enact new sanctions that won near unanimous approval in the Senate from Democrats and Republicans. And also of a report that the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, who was already under sanctions, was allowed to enter the United States just last week. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT.

And, all right, Jim, tell me about this guy, what you know about how he got into the United States and who he was here to meet with?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, interesting, Democrats drawing attention to this for a number of reasons, obvious reasons. Sergey Naryshkin, he's the head of the SVR, that's essentially the Russian equivalent of the CIA, their Foreign Intelligence Service, as you say, coming to the U.S., announced by Soviet state media, coming to the U.S. last week in days advance of that Trump administration decision not to impose further sanctions as called for by this bipartisan past legislation late last year. Coming in, one, in those days.

Two, as you mentioned, someone who is under current U.S. sanctions. And, three, after all, he runs the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, which is accused of taking part in the Russian meddling in the U.S. election. So a direct direct involvement there. And I've spoken to a number of intelligence officials today, they would not confirm on the record that the CIA director Mike Pompeo met with the SVR director, who would be his direct Russian counterpart.

But they made the case for why a CIA director would do that very thing. They said, listen, we exchange information all the time, intelligence with the Russians particularly on countered terrorism. And to the point of sanctions, they made the point that you see up on screen here now from a united (ph) spokesman saying, "Rest assured that any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with appropriate departments and agencies."

[19:20:04] In effect saying that, OK, we can in fact meet with someone who is under sanctions, we would let all the proper agencies and departments know that we were doing so. And again, repeating that argument, we do that to exchange important intelligence on counterterrorism issues. Remarkable timing, though, Erin.

BURNETT: Certainly remarkable timing. Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto.

And OUTFRONT now, the Republican Senator Jim Risch, who is a member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees. And Senator Risch, I appreciate your time tonight.


BURNETT: Obviously, as you heard Jim, they're not denying a report that the Russian spy chief who was sanctioned by the United States came last week to visit the United States in violation of sanctions and reportedly met with the CIA director, Mike Pompeo.

As a member of both Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees, did you know about any such meeting?

RISCH: No, I didn't. And I'm sure I will here in the immediate future. But, look, we have a lot of things that we disagree with Russia on. Thus, we put the sanctions on. Having said that, there are a number of things we do work with them on. And counterintelligence is certainly one of them. We have mutual interests as far as intelligence is concerned.

You will remember that when the Boston bombers were doing their thing, it was actually the Russians that tipped us off first. Now, look, having said that, there is real good reasons to sanction the Russians and the -- and we'll continue down that road.

BURNETT: The Russian -- U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, by the way, I just want you to know, has just confirmed that indeed the head of the SVR of the sanction of individual did meet with Mike Pompeo. So we have now just confirmed that, Senator, which obviously is significant, I guess, is your take that it would be better that it happens here than in Moscow?

RISCH: Well, I think, first of all, you know, I'm not sure -- I'm private (ph) to the list, but I'm not sure why this person was sanctioned, if it was for his government work or for perhaps some business stuff he was doing. I'm just not sure.

I can tell you this, we will find out about that on the Intelligence Committee, I guarantee it.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you about this list. Because the Treasury Department, as you know, right before the stroke of midnight, right on the last day they had six months after you had voted requiring them to do this, actually put out their list of Russian oligarchs linked to Putin. And what they released seemed to be a very hastily compiled list that match the Forbes list when it comes to billionaires and basically a Russian website -- the Russian government list of government ministers.

But the treasury secretary today says, don't judge on this. We got sanctions coming. There's hundreds of classified pages, there's a whole lot more here. Have you been -- have you seen that additional documentation, Senator, or have you been briefed on the classified portions of this?


BURNETT: And what's your takeaway? Are you satisfied?

RISCH: Well, actually, I think I can't speak for everyone. I was satisfied. I think everyone else that I know, that I've talked to is satisfied.

Look, we did the sanctions for a very specific reason. And that was to put an economic squeeze on Russia. These sanctions have done that. We were briefed on a number of transactions that were halted because our State Department, through the secretary of state, met with the countries that we're going to do business with Russia, and the deals were scuttled because of the sanctions we have on.

BURNETT: So you're saying you don't think that there need to be more sanctions or any on these individuals that are listed? RISCH: I wouldn't put it that way. I would put it this way. We have

sanctions in place right now. They are actually working right now, according to the briefings that we had. Obviously, I can't talk about the details, it's -- it is classified. That doesn't mean this thing is over with. That doesn't mean, OK, this was done, and that's it. We're going to watch this thing very closely. We're in an election year. Everyone is anticipating that the Russians are going to do what they did in the last election and in the elections before that. And what they did in Germany. And what they did in France. And if they do that again, you can assume that those sanctions are going to get tight end even more on the Russians.

BURNETT: All right, and of course, I want to point out that CIA director Mike Pompeo just yesterday in an interview with the BBC said, in fact, that there has been absolutely no downgrade or any change in the interference that they're doing as we head into the midterm elections.

And on that note, the Russia investigation, Senator, CNN is reporting tonight that a source close to Trump said it is still possible that he fires the Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Earlier today, the Majority Leader, your colleague, Mitch McConnell, said this about Mueller.


MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I don't see any need to bring up legislation to protect someone who appears that need no protection.


BURNETT: Are you confident he needs no protection or would you support legislation to protect Bob Mueller?

RISCH: I might if you could give me some more facts. For instance, how about disclosing the person that said this information? You know, when you put out something this important, and you don't attach a name to it, you know, I got to have more than that to be convinced.

[19:25:05] So, the president has said he's not going to fire Mueller. I need more information before we take a punitive action. And so far --

BURNETT: So until the president says it himself or directly threatens it himself, then it's then become a very imminent danger, you would wait?

RISCH: Let's wait until he fires Mueller and let you and I have this interview again and I'll tell you how angry people are. I can't fathom that he's going to do that. But, you know, when that happens, we won't any longer have an unidentified source. We'll have some actual sources that we can talk about.

BURNETT: And before we go, obviously, I don't know if you heard our report, but -- reporting, the president's lawyers are negotiating with Mueller's team. Our Pamela Brown saying negotiating and trying to say that the president does not need to sit down for a formal interview with Bob Mueller.

Do you think he should sit down with Bob Mueller or that it's fair for him to avoid it?

RISCH: Well, that -- you know, that would be between him and his attorneys. Look, I was a prosecutor. Never did much defense work. If I were defending, I'd be very reluctant to do that. The man is the president of the United States. He can simply refuse. And --

BURNETT: Right. But if you were prosecuting.

RISCH: I'd want him there. Absolutely.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Thank you very much, Senator. I appreciate your time as always. Thanks, Senator Risch.

RISCH: All right, thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And next on this special edition of OUTFRONT, new details just out about the president's speech tonight. And Melania Trump expected to be in attendance. Not normally something we'd list as a headline, but it is the first time in a while she has been seen publicly with her husband. Where has she been?


BURNETT: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world this hour. This is a special edition of OUTFRONT.

And you can see on your screen, Statutory Hall in the U.S. Capitol where President Trump and members of Congress are going to be walking in shortly. That's where you're going to see all the arrivals. You see all the television cameras. They're all going to be arriving there as they go in to the chamber where the president of the United States, President Trump, will deliver his first State of the Union Address before the joint session of Congress.

The president is expected to tout his legislative accomplishments, talk about immigration, North Korea. Also, we're told delivering a message that he thinks is of unity and optimism.

And Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT at the White House.

So, Jeff, you're getting in some excerpts that the White House thinks are key to what the president will deliver tonight and what do they say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are indeed, Erin, and speaking of unifying optimistic, every administration official use those words today and upbeat as they described the speech. Now, that certainly would be a change for the divisive rhetoric here at the White House and indeed on Capitol Hill. But in those new excerpts were looking at, they're talking about immigration specifically.

That is a key part of the president's speech this evening, and these lines released by the White House say this, Erin. They say struggling communities especially immigrant communities will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families.

The president will go on to say: So, tonight, I'm extending an open hand to working with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens of every background color and creed.

Now, Erin, I can tell you, those words will be tested immediately by the reaction of Republicans in the House of Representatives chambers. They are looking for guidance from their president from their leader on what type of bill he would sign, particularly in the House of Representatives. So, on immigration, that will be so important.

But on this whole message of unifying message in being upbeat and optimistic, Erin, the test is not in the speech tonight which is written out. The test is in the days to come, perhaps tomorrow and in the coming days. This, of course, an election year.

So, despite the words tonight, also listen for the tone. That's what I'll be listening to and what happens tomorrow and the days to come. But as for now, the president still here, I'm told still fine-tuning these remarks. They'll be leaving the White House shortly for Capitol Hill -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you.

And everyone back with me, along with Amanda Carpenter, the former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.

All right. David, so, you know, uplifting, optimistic the words we've heard again and again, right? They obviously agreed on those words. Those are the words they're talking about.

Another excerpt: I want to talk about what kind of future we're going to have and what kind of nation we are going to be, all of us together as one team, one people, and one American family. Obviously, you know, a unifying message.

There's another one though that I was looking at here on these excerpts: we want every American to know the dignity of a hard day's work, we want every child to be safe in their home at night.

That was a bit more sinister, because, I don't know the people were necessarily worried about, I mean, you know, I'm just saying this is a Trumpian style delivery.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think this is a Trumpian style, but I do think the other acknowledge that he has a very good story to tell about the economy. You're well taken.

You know, this is -- and the United States economy now is moving forward at rates we haven't seen. There is -- the animal spirits are back on Wall Street, you see that in the stock market. People who have 401ks are going to benefit from this. They benefit from other things.

And you talk to people like Jamie Dimon is just over the moon about this president and what he's going to do. I think the president would help himself in describing the economy to avoid the hyperbole. You know, this is the best thing ever, we have reached the summit here.

But, you know, this started under Obama. I wish he would acknowledge that he's building on Obama and you have to give him credit for that. But on the immigrants, I know I think it's sure you have to read the line here I think carefully. He didn't talk about all people, he talked about citizens. He's going to protect citizens. That means people who are already here legally.


Now, what about this issue though, Steve, of avoiding hyperbole, and I simply say this because having covered the market for a long time and you've been in that world.


BURNETT: You never know what's real and what's the bubble and you don't want to get too invested and connected with something that's doing well in case it were to burst.

CORTES: I agree.

BURNETT: Take the market today. It's been going up, but he often takes credit for that directly. It goes down today. Can he walk that line?

CORTES: Right. Listen, I agree, I worked on Wall Street for 20 years, you don't own the upside of the stock market and then without getting blamed for the downside and I've cautioned the White House. I wrote an article about this from "Real Clear Politics". I've cautioned them on focusing too much on the stock market.

Let's focus -- it's wonderful. It's great. It's a wealth creator, but let's focus on what's going on a real economy, what's going on for Main Street, truck orders, rising wages for middle-class workers, bonuses for hundreds of thousands, actually millions of workers. Let's focus more on that.

But you're right, the president you know to his credit I think is part of what made him an amazing entrepreneur, part of why he is president is, he states things often in grandiose terms. But we have to be careful about that now, given the office he holds and look, as much as I could defend the president, he doesn't walk on water clearly, and I would advise him, yes, I would dial that back a bit.

But I would also say on the immigration front, this is really important and I citizen as a Hispanic, as an immigrant son.

[19:35:01] You know, Nancy Pelosi, and I think it's shameful, she said if he wants to make America white again. No, he doesn't want to make America white again, he doesn't care what color you are, but he wants to protect Americans first, and that means a citizen of the United States.

BURNETT: So, Amanda, in terms of what we're going to hear is this going to be restrained or not. Well, first of all, it's going to come back to him and ad-libbing and how he feeds off the crowd and the Republicans who are applauding him. But here's who we know wrote the speech, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn helped him, along with H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. All right, those are two voices you can see adding calm to it.

And then there's Steven Miller who obviously is not known for that. So, what kind of speech is this going to be because especially if it is calm and the reaction is calm? He's not going to like that. He's going to want to spice it up as he goes, isn't he?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Yes, this may not be the State of the Union, but it may be the state of Donald Trump. But his more successful speech is chiseling fall within three buckets, the eight covers. The first is you know a sense of accomplishment, and I think this is where he may be trying to convey a sense of optimism. He may fully just list the greatest things that happened in the first year and he may think that is his version of optimism.

And then usually when Steven Miller is involved, there is a call to unite behind Donald Trump in name of being patriotic and loyal to the country. This is a heavy-handed theme he keeps returning to, and then there's always the element of carnage. And I do think they've tried to flip that over instead of saying, you know, the boogeyman is knocking at your door, rather they're trying to reframe that and say, oh, but Donald Trump will keep you safe.

BURNETT: All right. And don't worry, you don't worry about your children being safe in their beds at night, there's always that line that I returned to you. That rather sinister line.

Jen, I will say that when you look at who wrote the speech, right, it is our 71-year-old white president and it is three white men of varying ages who have helped him. In the environment we are in now, not just immigration-wise, but with the newfound focus on women and their role, it is notable that there does not seem to be at least from what you know they have been telling us more involvement.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, middle-aged white men are very well represented in the speech and the creation of the speech. Look, I think my experience is working on many State of the Unions is that it's not just about whether a president can read from a teleprompter regardless of what's in the speech. David's right that a lot of these trends started under President Obama. The economic growth was actually better under Obama as was the job creation.

But there's still good story to tell from last year. But that being said I think if you look at this speech it doesn't happen in a vacuum. The question is, what does he do tomorrow? What can happen in Congress? What is this -- what message is this sending to political candidates? What are they going to do?

And if you're an African American sitting at home, you're not going to say, oh, he hasn't actually defended white supremacist just because he says that he is not racist essentially in the speech. If you are an immigrant, you're not going to say, oh, wait he's actually for me if he has a bill that is going to cut legal immigration by 50 percent.

So, it doesn't happen in a vacuum. I think he'll deliver the speech tonight. He may or may not stay on the teleprompter. That will be interesting to watch.

But the real test is what happens tomorrow, the next day, and the weeks ahead.

TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: I'm just going to say that States of the Union are a way or a snapshot of what matters to the administration at that moment. You can look at 1963, John F. Kennedy State of the Union was all about tax-cutting, two lines about civil rights. Turns out civil rights would be more important than tax cutting.

1947, Harry Truman doesn't mention the Soviet Union, except that there are some negotiations not going very well. There's no Cold War. Nobody knows that Marshall Plan is going to happen that year.

So, to some extent, these things can actually be turn over by events. I'm going to be interested in hearing what this government is going to set up its priorities is. What are the priorities? How are they planning to meet them?

Normally, these speeches are about what all the departments want to achieve? That's why sometimes a laundry can be too long.


NATFALI: I'm listening to see whether the Trump White House has become the Trump administration, because what makes this so different from other presidencies is it's all about him and all about the four or five people who work for him, a real presidency is about an administration. I want to hear if there's an administration where they going to be pushing on all -- fighting on all throttles and all pistons and doing more than just what Donald Trump wants to do.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think to Tim's point, the objective for this White House is actually to make Trump kind of boring tonight. He needs to be a very normal president. He needs -- this is the big audience, right? This is the millions of American households paying attention to someone who they mostly know about through his Twitter habits.

This is an opportunity for him to reset with some of these people and to give a fairly boring, policy-focused speech that that seems optimistic. I mean, I think he's probably still going to be very hyperbolic about a lot of the things that he's proud of, but on some of the other stuff, it's about taking him down a notch and not being so in people's faces and making him seem a little bit less confrontational, which has been a big problem with his approval rating over the course of the last year. CORTES: What you both asking for is return to establishment politics. And in 2016, if there's one thing we learned is that establishment politics have not served the interest of the American worker well at all.

[19:40:02] NAFTALI: I want government.


CORTES: It hasn't worked for the American worker. It hasn't protected the security and prosperity of the American worker.

GERGEN: His politics have not helped him. That's the problem he has. He has a good economy, but he's not convinced the American people yet. He's got the lowest record numbers you know we've ever seen.

CORTES: Well, not small business optimism, all-time highs.


BURNETT: Approval rating is what he's referring to.


BURNETT: All right. All of you can be coming back in a moment and next on this special edition of OUTFRONT, is attending tonight's speech normalizing President Trump? I'm going to ask my guest who's the highest ranking Democrat boycotting the speech tonight.

And Melania resurfacing. She's expected to be at the Capitol tonight. Where has she been?


BURNETT: Welcome back to our special edition of OUTFRONT.

Tonight, a record number of lawmakers are boycotting President Trump's State of the Union Address. Another congressman adding herself to that list just moments ago.

So, now, it's at least 14 members of Congress, all Democrats say they are staying home in protest of Trump's policies and offensive language. That is the most ever. The only year that comes close was 1971. That time 12 members of the Congressional Black Caucus skipped President Nixon's address after he refused to meet with them.

My guest is one of the members not attending this year, the Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is OUTFRONT.

And, Congresswoman, thank you very much for your time tonight.


[19:45:00] BURNETT: You are the highest ranking Democrat who is boycotting the president's State of the Union tonight. You are the chief deputy whip. Top Democrat of the House, of course, Nancy Pelosi is not boycotting. She will be there.

SCHAKOWSKY: She'll be there.

BURNETT: What did she say to you about your choice?

SCHAKOWSKY: No, I didn't discuss it really with anyone. This is my decision because the president has subjected Americans for a whole year to the most racist and erratic and divisive kind of language and actions and I just felt that I cannot accept this as the new normal.

I cannot help to normalize this president that I don't think is fit to be the president of the United States.

BURNETT: So former White House adviser David Axelrod tweeted and he said, I understand the decision of some members to boycott the State of the Union, referring to people like yourself. He continued to say, but I don't agree with it anymore than I did when a member disrupted a speech in the House chamber by Barack Obama. The fact is that this POTUS flouts norms and disintegrates institution doesn't mean others should follow.

Do you worry about that, that you could be denigrating the office of the presidency itself by not attending?

SCHAKOWSKY: I think the one that has denigrated the office of presidency the most is Donald Trump, the president of the United States. And I believe the way that he has divided the country, the way he has recklessly talked about the use of nuclear annihilation, the way that he has name called, he's given people names.

He is a bully. He's mean. And he doesn't respect the institutions. He's made fun of the FBI. He's gone after judges. I just think that to normalize this president is wrong.

BURNETT: So, your fellow female Democrats who are attending, some of them are, most of them, are wearing black tonight. You are wearing yours as well.

SCHAKOWSKY: Wearing black, yes.

BURNETT: Yes, to acknowledge the Me Too Movement. And some of them are bringing guests.

And I'm just wondering whether you debated, you know, staying and maybe bringing a guest. Or, you know, one of the president's many accusers, maybe something like that where you would get a lot of visibility and a voice there in that room instead of staying out.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, first of all, on the -- at the podium will be a sexual predator, let's be honest about it. When we talk about the Times Up or the Me Too Movement, why doesn't Donald Trump get talked about more than we do? And that's one of the reasons.

I just feel that I can't be there. He'll walk down the center aisle, people will be glad-handing, and you know, he'll be slapping people on the back and people will be cheering and standing. I just felt in my heart that I could not be part of that.

BURNETT: Your colleague Congressman Cedric Richmond is attending. And he will be among the Congressional Black Caucus members ho says are, quote, staring racism in the face. And again, some of the Congressional Black Caucus, a couple are not attending. He said he is because he wants to stare racism in the face.

Does that make you reconsider?

SCHAKOWSKY: No. It's not a matter -- for me, it just felt wrong.


SCHAKOWSKY: That this president, he's the one that has delegitimated the presidency. That he has tried to delegitimate millions of Americans, insulting them quite directly, immigrants and people of color, and Jews, like myself, saying that the Nazi rally and white supremacist, that they were fine people that were there as well.

Who knows what he's going to tweet at midnight when he gets home? Who knows what he's going to say tomorrow? Tonight, if he's going to read off the teleprompter, it's going to be about unity and about we are all going to get along. No, that's not what we hear and see from this president.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Congresswoman. I appreciate your time tonight.

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you.

And next on this special edition of OUTFRONT, we're awaiting for President Trump now to arrive at the Capitol. He's going to come through there, preparing to give his State of the Union speech amid new reports that he may still fire Robert Mueller.

And the first lady is expected to attend her husband's speech after forcing Trump to go it alone in Davos.


[19:52:59] BURNETT: Breaking news, the president of the United States moments away from leaving the White House to deliver his first state of the Union Address. Sources just telling CNN the president is expected in the address to reverse President Obama's executive order to close Guantanamo Bay.

Chief political correspondent Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.

And, Dana, what re you learning about this breaking news as you await those key arrivals there on Capitol Hill?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, as you said, our colleagues, Elise Labott and Barbara Starr were first told about the fact that the White House is making calls here to Capitol Hill to their fellow Republicans warning or giving a heads up I should say that the president is in fact going to announce here at his State of the Union Address that he is going to sign an executive order that will officially formally reverse President Obama's executive order. That was to close Guantanamo Bay. Effectively, what the president is going to say is, I'm not doing that. I'm going to keep it open.

Now, this is something the president campaigned on. It is something that is expected. The fact that he is going to do it in this formal setting, though, is noteworthy. And certainly I can tell you a little more than an hour before the speech, it is something being buzzed about by Republicans I just talked to even during the commercial break walking by here.

BURNETT: And also as you get ready for the arrivals there, Dana, the question, of course, will be Melania Trump and how she arrives. She'll be seen publicly tonight for the first time since reports about the alleged affair between President Trump and a porn star. She went to Mar-a-Lago and unplanned a trip to the holocaust museum in Washington, and it was rather strange to be honest that the first lady's office actually had to announce that she would be attending the speech tonight.

BASH: Well, they even had to be asked, you're right, our colleague Kate Bennet asked and it was confirmed, yes, she will be -- she will be attending. But that is not usually a question that has to be asked of the first lady's office, you're absolutely right.

Look, the whole sort of atmosphere around the first lady and the president is not what we have normally seen, particularly in the past several weeks.

[19:55:02] I could just tell you that we're told that the first lady is having a reception on her own tonight in the White House for the 15 or so invited guests that she will have in the first lady's box here tonight at the State of the Union. And the other thing is that she'll so clearly be in the hall, she'll be in the first lady's box. We won't see her actually tonight physically with the president and we haven't in several weeks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Dana, thank you very much.

And our panel back with me. But let me just start with you, Jen, obviously as Dana points out, expected but yet being buzzed about at this hour that he's going to come out tonight and do this and say this is it. I'm going to reverse President Obama's executive order and I'm going to keep Guantanamo Bay open.

This was something President Obama had failed to complete but was one of his core campaign promises and indeed the first executive order he signed I believe.

PSAKI: That's right and while we didn't complete it, he didn't completely, we significantly reduced the population in Guantanamo, not because it's a partisan issue but because it was becoming a significant source of terrorist recruitment, and it was becoming a huge national security problem for us around the world. So, I will be interested to see how Trump explains this.

I know it's not a surprise and how his national security team feels about it, because this has been significantly across both party lines an area where we wanted to move forward in closing, we couldn't do it because of legal barriers.

BURNETT: Something, David Gergen, you would imagine Chief of Staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster knew a lot about.

GERGEN: Absolutely, it doesn't surprise that he's going to keep Guantanamo open. I think a lot of people around the world will be surprised but not here in the United States.

What is a surprise to me is that this is a moment when the president has a maximum opportunity to persuade people about his big ideas, about the big things and the two things people need to persuade people night on the economy is going really well, to have a lot of confidence invest and that sort of thing.

And the second thing is I think infrastructure and because that's a major, major, you know, aim of his. And he is somebody -- this is a distraction to get into Guantanamo, in the middle of his speech and he's surrounded by this Russian probe. I mean, this speech is going to get lost if he's not careful.

BURNETT: And let me just say, we also have this breaking news from "The Washington Post", Abby. Senior justice officials including Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general have urged the Trump -- President Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, not to release that memo, that partisan GOP memo which alleges wrongdoing at the highest levels of the FBI in the Trump Russia investigation. Their reason, it could do damage and it is not accurate and yet all indications are that the president will release this memo.

PHILLIP: How they not actually seen it himself yet. It will be interesting to see what happens through this interagency process. "The Post" is reporting that Kelly pointed the justice officials back to the interagency process as the way in which they could voice these concerns. But he also said that the president wants it released and that's what we've been reporting all day at CNN, that he is inclined to have this released not knowing what is in it and also not really carrying a whole lot about some of concerns that his own Justice Department are raising about the classified information that underlies this report, and whether it's going to do damage to the agency.

I mean, I have to re-emphasize here: this is the president's Justice Department. These are the people that he has appointed who are trying to pull him back on this.

BURNETT: And they are saying, Tim, it could do damage and it is not accurate. Let's just peek -- let's just make this loud and clear. It is the only piece of record the American public is going to see at this point. They're not going to see the underlying classified information, they're not going to see the Democrats memo which is equally as partisan but says the opposite conclusion.

So, we're going to see one thing and a lot of people are going to believe it.

NAFTALI: Well, let me put it this way, we're talking a lot about whether the president's going to be presidential tonight, if he releases that memo, which he has the authority to do --


NAFTALI: That's unpresidential. If his -- if his Justice Department -- his Justice Department is telling him that this is going to mislead the American people about the use of surveillance in this country was as extraordinarily important, it's an issue of our privacy, our Fourth Amendment rights, if they were saying that and he does it anyway, that is not presidential.

CARPENTER: But I would say is this, this is Donald Trump's favorite part where he keeps everyone in suspense of what the memo may say, the greatest damage being done to law enforcement is when everyone speculates about the crimes and abuses that may be contained in that memo while the FBI has absolutely no chance to defend itself, or explain what may be there. This is the greatest dangerous part.

PSAKI: Let's not forget who the author of this is. So, Devin Nunes, it was reported today that when he was asked whether he worked with the White House, he said -- he wouldn't answer the question.

BURNETT: Which is shocking by the way, he's supposedly, Devin Nunes, who recused himself from the Russian destination.


CORTES: More information is better than less, more transparency better than less.

NAFTALI: If it's true.

BURNETT: Underlying classified information, not someone's political point of view either.

PHILLIP: And that's the argument for declassifying the underlying information.

CORTES: And I agree with that, too, and the president should.

BURNETT: Thank you all so very much. And thanks for joining us.

Our special coverage of the State of the Union Address continues now with "AC360".